Article on heroin - right to drugs - technology

Avatar Polymorph (
Sun, 23 Aug 1998 12:58:10 +1100

This article appeared in a University student magazine, Spark, circulation 1,000, last week.

Avatar Polymorph

The question of the legality of heroin is one that has been frequently addressed by many commentators, and relates directly to the alleged social and moral implications of heroin usage. I have injected heroin a number of times. I can see little connection between its effects and the alleged social and moral implications of heroin usage put forward by anti-legalisation commentators. I can, however, see quite direct connections between its addictive qualities, its expense and the actions of those heroin takers who are addicted to it. If cigarettes were banned tomorrow I believe you would find tobacco smokers behaving like heroin addicts very shortly thereafter. That is, paying large amounts of money for an illegal substance and, if relatively poor, stealing and acting as sex workers for quick cash. As a former packet a day smoker, I remember selling books and records in desperation when my income level was low, in common with many artists.

The reality of this situation is very much obvious, even to conservative commentators. There are a number of hidden or unspoken agendas at work.

  1. Heroin use is perceived as a social threat because it does involve new and altered states of consciousness, which are linked to the drug and alternative cultures.
  2. Heroin use is labelled particularly 'bad' as it allows for concealment of the lack of compassion on the part of conservative commentators. These commentators laud positivism and 'life' while accepting all sorts of adverse consequences flowing from the current hypocrisy. In the case of the illegality of heroin, these commentators rarely mention the growing numbers of deaths and illnesses and slow deaths stemming from the illegality of heroin. I have held the hand of an overdose victim suffering an epileptic fit on Smith Street [a Melbourne heroin centre] - one who stole from me once - while corrupt police drove by, those same police who mouth platitudes. Unknown dosages and contaminated syringe usage are the physical problem, not heroin itself. Conservative commentators claim to be worried about the addiction, rather than the social challenge of alternative ways of thinking.

My personal viewpoint on these matters is two-fold. Firstly, I would assert, as a general principle, that every person has the right to control their own bodies, provided that they are not directly hurting another. This includes the right to take drugs, whether poison, nicotine, heroin, caffeine, marijuana, LSD or any form of medication or therapy. This would make non-consensual smoking in the immediate vicinity of non-smokers or the provision of alcohol to a violent and aggressive person who is already drunk things to be avoided.

Secondly, I would suggest that research be done to create a form of non-addictive heroin. While there may be physical limitations to chemical alteration of heroin, the existence of neurotransmitters similar in structure to opiates points to the viability of such a possibility. This would increase the options for heroin users and clarify the real issues involved. Similar research could be done for nicotine and addiction, and perhaps also its cancerous effects. Governments in general would currently oppose such research, just as they oppose research into LSD. The importance of this issue will not go away. It is a matter of general principle. The denial of legal heroin by conservatives, and specifically by the police - as I can attest to personally from my experience in government circles - is symbolic. Removal of the addictive element would help clarify the debate.

It is possible that conservatives will shortly seek to restrict access to genetic therapies, genetic splicing and intra-cellular nanotechnology. It is a fundamental moral and spiritual right to control your own body, up to and including suicide. What does the future hold? In a world where advanced automation and nanotechnolgy are about to remove the necessity for manual work and capital, it will be possible to manufacture drugs within the body and experience altered states of consciousness continuously. This is one option open to people, and a legitimate one. Conservatives may attempt to restrict this option, and, indeed, go further, by attempting to control the neurological consciousness of others against their will, the 'Big Brother' approach. This is the wider context of the issue of opiates, other currently illegal recreational drugs and altered states of consciousness. The same people who tell us that the death of others is better than controlled provision of heroin may, in two decades time, be arguing that designer neurotransmitters and direct access to the Internet - via optical and aural nerves - should be restricted and monitered by the government. The championing of choice, begun in the 1960s by such prophets and moral teachers as Timothy Leary, will, however, continue, and is attested by the positive attitude of youth towards freedom of exploration.